Party pledges on finances examined.
Parliament has now dissolved and the General Election will be held on 7th May 2015.
What exactly would a victory for each party mean for you and for your money, based on what the parties are promising in their manifestos?
Conservatives: The Prime Minister has also stated that pensioner benefits such as the winter fuel allowance and TV licences will not be means-tested, a promise he made in 2010 that he is repeating now.
David Cameron has stated that the party will reduce the annual benefits cap from £26,000 to £23,000 "within the first few days" of a new Government, should the Tories win, and the party would also deny housing allowance benefit to 18 to 21 year olds on Jobseeker's Allowance, and replace JSA for this age group with a 'Youth Allowance' time limited to six months, after which all recipients should be in an apprenticeship, training or doing community work.
Labour: Under Labour, social security would be capped. It wants to introduce a Compulsory Jobs Guarantee, paid for by a bank bonus tax. This would provide a paid 'starter job' for young people who remain unemployed for over a year, which they will have to take or lose benefits.
Over 25s would have to be out of work for two years before being offered this. Like the Conservatives, Labour plans to replace benefits for 18-21 year olds with a new 'Youth Allowance' that would depend on recipients being in training, and target this at those "who need it most".
Alongside these moves, Ed Miliband has vowed to end long-term unpaid internships, which his party says is locking talented people out of many professions as they cannot afford to work for free.
The party would carry on giving free TV licences and bus passes to eligible pensioners, and maintain the 'triple lock' on the State Pension so that it will rise by at least 2.5% per year, as would the Conservatives. However, pensioners with annual retirement incomes of over £42,000 would not be eligible for winter fuel payments.
It would also freeze rises in Child Benefit for two years, but this cap could be offset by the promise to provide working parents with 25 hours of free childcare per week for three- and four-year-olds, up from 15 hours.
Liberal Democrats: Universal Credit would be rolled out to "make sure it pays to work," though this has been a work in progress under the Coalition during the length of their Parliament. It would review the much-criticised sanctions procedures in Jobcentres.
The Lib Dems want to legislate to make the 'triple lock' protection on the State Pension permanent. It would not give Winter Fuel Payments to pensioners who pay tax at the higher (40%) rate. The party wants to look at improving workplace pensions and consider introducing a single rate of tax relief for pensions to simplify the system, which would also be more generous than the current 20% basic rate.
UKIP: UKIP supports a lower cap on benefits, and says it wants to end so-called 'welfare tourism' by introducing a five-year initial ban on claiming benefits for migrants and stopping Child Benefit being paid for children who don't live in the UK.
A flexible State Pension window would be introduced, so that even when the retirement age rises to 69, pensioners will be able to take a lower weekly State Pension from age 65. It will also allocate funding to giving older people independent advice on what to do with their pensions.
Green Party: The Greens want to oversee the introduction of a ‘Citizen’s Income’ distributed to everyone in the country regardless of whether a person is in work, actively seeking work, or not. This would cover an individual’s basic needs and replace the tax-free allowance systems and benefits.
A Citizen's Pension would be introduced, paid to all pensioners regardless of contribution status, which would pay £180 a week to a single pensioner or £310 to a couple.
Free social care for the elderly would be provided, while bus passes and Winter Fuel Payments are both to be protected. TV licences would be abolished, making that particular perk for the elderly a non-issue.
Child Benefit would be doubled.
Conservatives: The personal income allowance would be raised to £12,500 in the next Parliament, and legislation will be introduced so as the minimum wage (which rises to £6.70 in October) goes up so will the allowance. So no one on the minimum wage who works 30 hours a week will pay income tax; those working 40 or more would still be taxed, as it stands.
For earners at the other end of the scale, no one earning less than £50,000 will pay the 40p rate of tax. Currently, the 40p rate is introduced for earnings above £42,285 a year in most cases. The Conservative manifesto pledges that the party "will not raise VAT, National Insurance contributions or Income Tax." It says it will be able to do this by clamping down on tax evasion and "agressive" avoidance.
Labour: Labour would cut tax for people on middle and lower incomes – by its estimates, 24 million people – by introducing a starting 10p tax rate. This would be paid for by scrapping the recently introduced Marriage Tax Allowance. It has pledged to leave the basic and higher rates of Income Tax, National Insurance and VAT untouched.
It also plans to restore the 50p tax rate for those earning above £150,000, which was introduced by Labour in 2010 but was subsequently reduced to 45% by the coalition Government.
The party wants to scrap the 'non-dom' tax status, whereby British residents do not have to pay tax on foreign earnings so long as they don't transfer it into the UK.
Liberal Democrats: The Lib Dems claim that the raise of personal allowance on income to £10,000 was always their idea, as David Cameron said it was unaffordable policy during election debates in 2010. The party wants to raise that allowance to £12,500 if in power after the election. This would mean a tax cut of around £400 for many.
Failure to prevent tax evasion would become a criminal offence, meaning banks, accountancy firms or similar companies could be culpable for allowing customers to not pay their taxes.
UKIP: UKIP wants to increase the personal allowance on Income Tax to the same amount that a full-time minimum wage worker earns – around £13,500 – by the time the next election takes place.
A 30% Income Tax rate would be introduced for those earning between £43,500 and £55,000. Earnings over £55,000 would be taxed at 40%. The transferrable tax allowance for married couples would be increased to £1,500.
It is pledging to take action against large companies who dodge, or pay negligible corporation tax, in Britain.
Green Party: The Green Party would look to introduce a ‘wealth tax’ of between 1% and 2% levied against the very richest people in our society – those with assets of £3 million or more. It would also introduce a tax on banks' financial transactions. Together, it says these measures would raise around £45 billion over the course of the Parliament.
This, it says, would help redistribute what it sees as an unfair division of money in the UK between the richest and poorest. Other countries including France and Spain levy a similar 'wealth tax' against their richest citizens.
It would also like to see a 50% Income Tax rate above £100,000 per annum.
Labour: Labour says it will increase the minimum wage to £8 by October 2019 if it wins the next election. It would also encourage employers to pay the Living Wage by offering tax breaks to those who do so. Zero-hour contracts would not be abolished under Labour, but new rules would be introduced to give employees new rights, such as the right to receive a fixed-hour contract if working regular hours for 12 weeks and compensation from employers for workers who have their shifts cancelled at short notice.
UKIP: Workers who work for one year would be able to request a secure full- or part-time contract, and exclusivity clauses would be banned. They would have to be notified of working hours at least 12 hours in advance, and employers would then have to pay them for the work, regardless of whether or not they were then turned away.
Green Party: The minimum wage would reach £10 an hour by 2020.
The Greens want to introduce a living wage to increase the earnings of the workers who are paid the least, as well as company-wide maximum pay ratios to make sure that a CEO earns no more than ten times the salary of the lowest paid employee.
Conservatives: David Cameron has set his sights on refuelling the Right to Buy scheme first introduced in the Thatcher years, by extending the scheme to apply to tenants of housing associations. This would offer renters the chance to purchase their home at a discount (up to 1.3 million by the Tories' count), but critics have pointed out that the UK would foot the bill to repay the housing associations for their sold assets. Labour says the policy is "unfunded", estimating the cost to be a potential £4.5 billion.
The party also plans to oversee the construction of 200,000 new homes by 2020 for first-time buyers. An accompanying scheme would slash 20% off the market price of these starter homes for first-time buyers under 40. Further to this, a Brownfield Fund would be created to free up land to build additional housing, although it's not clear if this will be specifically 'affordable' builds.
Labour: Labour says it would get 200,000 houses built per year by 2020, and get rid of the ‘bedroom tax’. Powers would be given to local authorities to prevent construction firms holding onto land without starting developments within a fixed period.
First-time buyers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland would not have to pay Stamp Duty on homes under £300,000 for three years.
A Mansion Tax on high-value properties (worth over £2 million) will be introduced, and Labour has said it will fast-track legislation if it wins so that the tax becomes enforceable as soon as possible. Those who live in such high-value homes but earn under £42,000 a year will have the right to defer payment until their property is sold.
Labour wants to make three-year tenancy terms the ‘norm’, as opposed to the standard six or twelve month Assured Shorthold Tenancy agreements that are the most common form of tenancy contract at the moment.
A national register of private landlords would be created and Labour wants to ban letting agents from charging fees to tenants, and place a ceiling on annual rent increases.
Liberal Democrats: 300,000 new-build homes a year would be the target for a Lib Dem Government, including 10 new garden cities where homes are needed most.
It wants to help first-time buyers by introducing a 'rent-to-own' scheme, under which people could make monthly payments on one of 30,000 proposed properties in order to build up a 'share' in the home, with no deposit necessary, until eventually owning it outright after 30 years. They could cash in their share at any point in order to fund a larger deposit to buy a different home.
The party also says it would launch a Help to Rent policy, which would provide young people living at home with a loan to help pay for a deposit on a rented home of their own. Tenants would be able to borrow up to £1,500, rising to £2,000 if the home's in London. The deposit would have to be paid back within two years.
An incentive for improving your home's energy saving by at least two EPC bands would be a reduction in Council Tax by £100 for 10 years.
A Mansion Tax would also be on the cards following a Lib Dem victory, applicable to properties worth over £2 million.
UKIP: The 'bedroom tax' would be abolished.
Houses on brownfield sites would be exempt from Stamp Duty for the first £250,000 on their first sale and grants made available to developers to encourage them to redevelop these sites. Currently, UKIP says, developers are put off by the prospect of preparing derelict and potentially contaminated land for building houses on.
Non-British nationals would not be allowed access to Right to Buy or Help to Buy schemes, unless they have served in the armed forces.
Green Party: The Greens want to ensure development is evenly distributed across the whole of the UK and make buy-to-let investments less attractive by removing tax incentives, including the deduction of mortgage interest as an expense, which it says will take pressure off the overburdened property market.
Stamp Duty Land Tax would be phased out and replaced with a Land Value Tax that would also eventually incorporate Council Tax. This would only begin in the final year of the next Parliament though, so for the time being, Council Tax would be reworked with extra bands being introduced for the most expensive properties. People at the bottom would pay less as a result.
The Greens want 500,000 social homes built for rent, and says that it would bring empty homes back into use to ensure everyone has access to an affordable place to live.
Renters would enjoy better security with five-year fixed tenancy agreements, caps on annual rent increases and the Greens would prevent letting agents from charging a tenants a fee.
It would scrap Help to Buy, claiming that it doesn't help those in the greatest need and the manifesto says that it "contributes to excessive demand". Mass council house sales and the Right to Buy would be abolished, as would the 'bedroom tax'.
Conservatives: The Conservatives have said they would ensure rail fares in England would rise by no more than inflation if they win the election, which they claim would save the average commuter £400 by 2020.
Labour: The party will not freeze gas and electricity bills until 2017, but price reductions will be allowed. Labour will freeze rail fares for one year, and introduce a strict cap on all routes for future rises.
Liberal Democrats: The Lib Dems want people to be able to switch energy suppliers within 24 hours and end above-inflation rail fare increases.
UKIP: Energy companies would not be allowed to charge customers who use prepayment meters more than those who pay by other means. UKIP would also cut the cost of a TV licence to £50.
Green Party: Railways would be nationalised, and fares immediately slashed by 10%.
Conservatives: The Inheritance Tax threshold would be raised from £325,000 to £500,000 (or £1 million for a married couple) when a property is included in the deceased's estate. This would be paid for by restrictions on tax relief on those who earn more than £150,000 a year.
UKIP: Inheritance Tax would be abolished.
Green Party: Inheritance Tax would be reworked to base the level of tax on the wealth of the recipient, rather than the deceased.
Conservatives: The Tories say 30 hours of free childcare a week would be provided to the parents of three- and four-year-olds.
Labour: Labour will offer double paternity leave from two to four weeks and increase paternity pay by over £100 a week.
Liberal Democrats: The Lib Dems want to give parents of under-12s up to £1,200 per child to help with the cost of childcare, provide 15 hours of free childcare for two year-olds for 40% of the population, and increase the number of hours of free childcare for three- and four year-olds. It also wants to expand Shared Parental Leave.
University tuition fees
Labour: Labour will cut the university tuition fee cap to £6,000, funding this by reducing tax relief on pensions for people earning over £150,000 a year.
UKIP: Students who take approved degrees in Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Medicine (STEMM) would not have to repay their student loans, on the condition that they work in their discipline after graduating and pay tax in the UK for at least five years after completing their degrees.
Green Party: Tuition fees would be scrapped under the Greens, while current student debt would be cancelled.
Conservatives: Around £4 billion-worth of shares in Lloyds Bank will be up for grabs under the Tories, who say they will sell them off at below-market prices to small investors.
UKIP: UKIP would double the budget for pensions guidance for people approaching retirement and make it a criminal offence to coldcall someone about their pension.
This article is being updated to reflect party pledges as they are announced.
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